Ordination Of Deacon
SERMON preached on the occasion of the Diocesan Liturgy
Sunday June 18, 1995
Within the immeasurable depth of the Liturgy, two events have occurred to-day in this Service. One, the ordination of Nicholas to be a Reader and a Sub-Deacon; a Reader is not someone who is literate enough to read aloud the services, it is one who is called to proclaim in the hearing of an assembled congregation of believers, God's own words, the psalms, passages of the Old Testament, passages of the New Testament. And in that, the Church vests in him, indirectly, to the extent to which he can carry the burden, the role of a teacher, one who proclaims the wisdom of God as already expressed in the Holy Scriptures by saints and prophets who have, may have, a direct knowledge of it. His role is to grow through the reading of the Scriptures, not only with his eyes and mind but with his whole being, to grow into that knowledge which will allow him to proclaim the words written before him, as a word streaming from the depths of his own heart.
This is why he is called upon to read the Scriptures sedulously, to be able to be in our hearing the voice of the Church, and within it, the voice of God Himself. May God grant him to fulfil this duty. He will also be allowed, as a Sub-Deacon, to handle all the Sacred Objects, and it is only to the extent to which he will be faithful to his calling that he will be able to do it unto the salvation of his soul and the salvation of others.
We have also ordained to-day a Deacon. This is a unique occasion in our church, because David was a priest of the Anglican Church, and together with his parish, he has decided to become an Orthodox. He was their guide, and he becomes now, in a new way, their servant and a witness of God. He said to us yesterday that for him and them, becoming Orthodox was a homecoming; may Orthodoxy be for them truly their home, the place where love nurtures them, the place where the truth lies, and the joy of togetherness.
He has, for the first time in his life crossed the threshold of the Sanctuary. This is a dread moment in the life of each of us who were called to do this, because only the Lord Jesus Christ can by right enter the Holy of Holies, stand before the Holy Table and bring forth the Gifts of salvation. He has entered this Sanctuary sent by you, because it is your election, and the election of the Presbyterate that has sent him from the realm where salvation is being worked, to the realm from which salvation comes to the earth. He has entered it not as an individual person, he has entered it as a representative of all the laity of the church. Let us pray for him that he may reveal to all of us what a true layman is when chosen by his brothers and sisters, he is sent into the Holy of Holies to bring from there in the litanies a message from heaven.
Saint Maxim the Confessor says in one of his writings that it is the deacon who adequately represents Christ in the Liturgy; he represents Him – he is not Him: but he represents in the Service one who serves. Christ said about Himself: ‘I am in your midst as one who is a servant', and this is a grace which has now been given to David – to be a servant, and we have prayed that he should be a faithful servant, truly an icon of Christ.
Soon he will be ordained, by the election of the Presbyterate which has already taken place, to be a priest – the parish priest of the Orthodox in the very parish where he was a priest of the Anglican Church. And we must think with deep emotion about what is happening because he has not abandoned, rejected the Church that gave him the knowledge of God, gave him, through Baptism, oneness with Christ, gave him the vocation of serving. He feels that he had to outgrow what he possessed into a greater plenitude. It is with gratitude to his past that he is moving to his future, and together with him all those who are following him into this new world of Orthodoxy, into this plenitude which is the Orthodox Church. Let us pray for him, let us pray also for all those who with him are entering into communion with the Orthodox Church.
Let us thank God for the greatness of heart of the Anglican community which has let him go with love, in peace, with support, without bitterness, because they have heard that he, and those who go with him, are following a call of Christ who said 'I am the Truth, I am the Way and the Life'.
We will now, at the end of the service, sing «Mnogaya Leta' – very many years of life, of faithful service, of faithful devotion to God, and to the world for which Christ has given His life; for him, and those who already have been received in the Orthodox Church, and a number of members of his parish which are still preparing to take this step, and without mentioning them by name, let us pray for them that the plenitude of the Holy Spirit may be with them. Amen